Israel reports second suspected case of monkeypox in traveler from Europe

The Health Ministry said Sunday it was investigating whether a second case of monkeypox had been detected in Israel.

The announcement came a day after the first case in Israel has been officially confirmed.

The second suspected patient recently traveled to Western Europe, the ministry said in a statement without providing further details.

According to Channel 12 reports, the man is hospitalized and isolated at Barzilai Medical Center in the coastal city of Ashkelon.

The report said the 27-year-old was in good condition.

The Kan public broadcaster said the man was a sailor who arrived on a cargo ship which docked at the port of Ashdod.

Illustrative: This 1997 image provided by the CDC shows the right arm and torso of a patient, whose skin had a number of lesions from what had been an active case of monkeypox. (CDC via AP)

The Palestinian Authority said Sunday morning that no cases of monkeypox had been detected in areas of the West Bank under its administration.

“There is a follow-up to those who come from abroad,” PA health ministry spokesman Kamal al-Shakhra said in a statement.

Monkeypox is a viral infection that has surfaced in Europe and North America, as well as Israel. Symptoms of the rare disease include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The Director General of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, stressed on Sunday “this is not another coronavirus”.

“These kind of diseases break out from time to time,” he told Radio103.

“We are considering and intending to vaccinate mainly populations at risk,” he said, but noted that it was not necessary to inoculate the entire population.

Until 1996, IDF recruits received smallpox vaccines, which partially protected them against monkeypox. Therefore, it is believed that a large portion of the adult population in Israel can benefit from some level of protection.

Health Minister Director General Nachman Ash speaks during a meeting at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on October 24, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

National coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told the Kan public broadcaster that monkeypox is “a milder disease that is much less infectious than coronavirus”.

Zarka said existing vaccinations and treatments are effective against the diseases.

Israel’s first suspected case was reported on Friday and confirmed at a meeting of health officials on Saturday evening.

It was found in a 30-year-old man who recently returned to Israel from abroad. He is in solitary confinement at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and in good condition.

The Israel Center for Disease Control committee concluded its deliberations on Saturday without making a major decision, but pledged to monitor the disease.

Dr Boaz Raz, the head of the committee, said he did not expect a widespread outbreak.

“It’s not an epidemic, but we need to raise awareness,” Raz said, according to Channel 13.

The health ministry has called on anyone who has returned from abroad and has a fever and a rash to contact a doctor.

Illustrative: Discarded biohazard bags fill a trash can in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Health Ministry estimates that there will be dozens more cases in Israel, but that there is no danger to the general public and the disease will not become an epidemic, Kan reported on Saturday.

The ministry stressed that the disease is generally mild and there are few cases of serious illness or death.

The ministry also said it was “considering equipping itself with relevant vaccines and drugs,” as well as preparing for other diagnoses.

At the meeting, health experts discussed giving people vaccines after exposure, which could at this stage still prevent a serious case, Channel 13 reported.

This 1997 image provided by the CDC during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, and depicts the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a patient with monkeypox, who exhibited the appearance of the characteristic rash during his recovery phase. (CDC via AP)

Galia Rahav, head of the infectious diseases unit at Sheba Medical Center and a member of the committee, told Channel 13: “This is a completely different infection from the coronavirus, much less infectious.”

She said it doesn’t spread through particles in the air like COVID-19, making it less transmissible.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets from an infected person, as well as through shared objects such as bedding or towels.

Medical experts from the LGBTQ community participated in the Center for Disease Control committee meeting. The World Health Organization said it was investigating that many of the cases reported in other countries involved people identifying as gay or bisexual.

Israeli experts have urged avoiding the topic so that the disease is not stigmatized. They also called for preparations ahead of next month’s gay pride events, which are expected to attract 100,000 attendees, many of them foreigners.

Health experts have also discussed whether to vaccinate medical personnel who come into close contact with infected patients or people who have been exposed and have weakened immune systems.

Top European health officials warned on Friday that cases could accelerate in the coming months as the virus has spread to at least eight European countries. The World Health Organization has confirmed 92 cases of monkeypox in 12 countries.

In recent weeks, cases have been detected in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden as well as the United States, Canada and Australia, raising fears that the virus does not spread.

To date, no one has died in the outbreak. The WHO estimates the disease is fatal for up to one in 10 people, but smallpox vaccines are protective and some antiviral drugs are in development.

Monkeypox usually goes away after two to four weeks, according to the WHO.

Aaron Boxerman and AFP contributed to this report.

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